Millions of Americans, myself included have been victim to identity theft. In addition to dealing with the feelings of vulnerability and hopelessness we have to fight the creditors and credit bureaus who in recent years have made it more difficult for victims to get their reports cleared.
In my 15 year career as a credit repair advocate at Imax Credit Repair, I’ve devised the most comprehensive plan on combatting identity theft, which has yielded me nearly a 100% success rate.
In this blog post, I show you not only how to clear your credit report from fraudulent items but also how to make your file identity theft proof. But first lets understand a few things about identity theft first.
What is Identity Theft And How Does It Happen
Identity theft occurs when a dubious actor has assumed your identity by forging an SSN card and photo ID with your name and is using them to apply for credit in person.
Another scenario is where someone was simply able to acquire your personal information, and is fraudulently applying for credit accounts online, but not in person, since he/she doesn’t have a forged copy of your id or SSN card.
For some folks the identity theft could be someone who may have lived with them and who has had access to such personal information.
For most people, however, their personal information is compromised by online security breaches at big institutions, such as banks, government institutions etc. Hackers may sell loads of data to identity theft criminal rings who will then assume someone’s identity and begin obtaining credit
What to do About Identity Theft And How to Fix It
Over the last 15 years, through trial and error of dealing with hundreds of identity theft cases, I’ve perfected a carefully crafted 8 Step Program to remove fraudulent items from credit reports
The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) has provisions for identity theft victims, but if the details in the steps below are not followed, then the credit bureaus and creditors have the right to reject your claim. Here are the steps beginning with filing a fraud report:
STEP 1 - Filing the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
First step is to lodge the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Affidavit online. Do make sure to include account numbers from the credit report, the opening dates, the amounts involved.
Beware that the credit bureaus and creditors are notorious for rejecting identity theft and fraud claims if this affidavit is not filled out properly or is missing details.
STEP 2 - Filing an Identity Theft Police Report
Next you will be filing a police report for identity theft with the local police department where you reside. You may be allowed to do this on the local PD’s website, otherwise, if you have to go in, make sure to take your ID and credit report.
On the police report, whether filing online or in person make sure each fraudulent the account is listed by creditor name, account #, opening date and outstanding amount.
Again I’ve seen creditors and credit bureaus reject ID theft claims if the Police report is missing the information fields described above.
STEP 3 - Preparing the Credit Bureau Identity Theft Dispute Letter
To dispute the fraudulent accounts, inquiries and personal information with the credit bureaus, you can use this FCRA compliant credit bureau dispute letter that requires the bureaus to act within 30 days of receipt. Below is a guide on what to do regarding customizing the dispute letter:
A) How to dispute fraudulent and identity theft related items:
In the event, the account was opened by an identity thief then you can use “account fraudulently opened “as the dispute reason.
In the event an account opened by you incurred fraudulent charges, then you can use “account incurred fraudulent charges” as the dispute reason.
B) How and why to Put a Fraud Alert on your credit report:
Put in your cell phone # at the top of the letter and request that a Fraud Alert be put on your credit report. This will trigger a phone call to your cell phone anytime someone tries to apply for credit.
C) Where to mail the credit bureau identity theft dispute letters:
Experian Identity Theft:
National Fraud Victims Assistance
P.O Box 9554
Allen TX 3037
Equifax Identity Theft:
Consumer Fraud Division
P.O Box 740256
Atlanta GA 3037
Transunion Identity Theft:
Fraud Victims Assistance
P.O Box 2000, Chester PA 19016
D) What to include with the Identity Theft Credit Bureau Dispute Letters:
- ID card copy
- Social Security card copy
- Utility bill copy
- Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report
- Filed Police Identity Theft Copy
STEP 4 - Disputing Identity Theft Accounts with the Creditors Directly
You’ll need to do the following for each of the fraudulent accounts:
A) Contact each Creditor
Call each of the creditors, tell them you’re a fraud victim, ask for their fraud dept. Inquire where you can submit identity theft claim documents.
They may give you a fax#, email address or mailing address.
B) Send Each Creditor the following documents
-Cover Sheet with your statement describing the event
-ID card copy
-Social Security card copy
-Utility bill copy
-Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report
-Filed Police Identity Theft Copy
C) Submit and Wait
Wait 30 days for the creditors to investigate the claim and make a decision.
STEP 5 - What To Do if the Credit Bureaus and Creditors Fail to Remove the Fraudulent Information
Granted if you’ve filed the identity theft reports properly and provided all the requisite documents, only then would you be able to file regulatory complaints against the parties involved.
A good place to start would Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here you’ll be able to lodge a complaint against any of the 3 credit bureaus as well as the creditors.
Once a complaint a lodged, it is forwarded to the complainant, who will be required to submit a response to address the problem.
STEP 6 - Preventing and Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft in the Future
I highly recommend putting what’s called a credit lock, aka credit freeze on your credit report.
You may request the credit bureaus to freeze or lock your credit report so that no creditor can access it while it is locked. If you apply for any credit in the future.
You will need to unlock your credit reports that the creditor can access it. Once the creditor has pulled your report, you can lock the credit report again.
Where to get your Credit Locks:
Experian.com: Their free credit monitoring service allows you to instantly lock and unlock your Experian report.
Transunion.com: Their monthly paid credit monitoring service allows instant locks and unlocks Equifax and Transunion.
STEP 7 - Reviewing Other Identity Theft Resource Centers (Optional)
Organizing your Recovery Process: –FTC Identity theft Recover Plan Booklet
–Driver’s License ID fraud – Notify your state’s DMV
-IRS And Tas Fraud: Contact the Internal Revenue Service Fraud Department or call their Fraud Hotline at 800-829-0433.
Also, reach out to the income tax board in your state.
–Passport Fraud or theft: If your Passport was used in identity theft, contact the U.S. State Department, Passport Services Department
–If your mail has been stolen: contact the USPS Inspector General
–SSN Fraudulent Use For Employment: If someone is employed under your SSN then you may want to lodge a complaint with the Office of Inspector General at the Social Security Administration.
STEP 8 - Looking into getting a new Social Security Number:
Finally if these steps don’t rectify your identity theft-related issues, then after some convincing and going up the chain of command, the Social Security Administration just may agree to issue you a new SSN.
After this is done, you will need to establish a new credit file with the three credit bureaus and have them transfer the valid information from your old file to your new file. The fraud hotline below can be a good place to start:
Social Security Administration Fraud hotline : 1-800-269-0271
FINAL STEP – When to Hire a Credit Repair Advocate Like Myself:
Yes, identity theft issues can be rectified, but the process requires meticulous planning, dedication and attention to detail.
So be ready to spend several hours over a few days working on this issue and going back and forth with each creditor and credit bureau.
If you’re not in a position to do so, and if you’re seeking quicker and more effective results, then reach out to me personally at Imax Credit Repair.
I’ll be taking your file through an escalated pre-litigation process, which if not successful will allow our associate attorneys to file lawsuits against the bureaus and creditors for FCRA violations.